An outline of the history of linguistics Essay
An outline of the history of linguistics
• Hindu Tradition o Had its origins in the 1st millennium BC o Stimulated by changes in Sanskrit o Panini (c. 500 BC) is the best known grammarian o Panini’s grammar of Sanskrit covered phonetics and morphology • The Greek Origin o The Greek tradition of linguistics developed in response to Homer’s epics. The Greeks founded the European tradition. o IMPORTANT THEMES IN THE GREEK TRADITION INCLUDE: ? The origin of language ? Classification of words (parts of speech) ? The relation between language and thought ?
The relation between two aspects of word-signs (whether form and meaning are connected by nature or by convention. 1 o Plato (c. 429-347 BC) distinguished between Nouns and Verbs. He favored nature over convention. o Aristotle’s (384-322 BC) main contributions to linguistics are as follows: • He divided words into Nouns, Verbs, and Adjectives. • He divided the sentence into two parts, SUBJECT and PREDICATE. • He classified GENDER into masculine, feminine, and neutral.
• He was the first to distinguish between the different types of TENSE a verb carries. o Thrax (100 BC) produced the first complete grammar of Greek. He concluded that Greek words fell into just eight classes, which we call the parts of speech.
Thrax’s description of Greek has become the basis of all grammatical description in Europe until the 20th century. 2 • Roman Tradition o After the Roman conquest of Greece in the mid-2nd century BC, Roman scholars learned of the Greek work, and they began to apply the same analysis to their own language, Latin. o One of the most influential Roman grammarians is Priscian, who wrote in the 6th century AD. Priscian’s description of Latin is still what we find in most school textbooks of Latin today. • Arabic Tradition The oldest Arabic grammarian is Abu-Alaswad al-Du’ali, who established diacritical marks and vowels for Arabic in the mid-600s.
o The schools of Basra and Kufa in the late 700s. o From the school of Basra, two representatives laid important foundations for the field: Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi authored the first Arabic dictionary and book of Arabic prosody, and his student Sibawayh authored the first book on theories of Arabic grammar. 3 • The Port-Royal Grammar o The 17th-century French scholars, known as the Port-Royal Circle, put together a remarkably original “universal” grammar of French that is very different from the Priscianic tradition.
o The central argument of the Grammar is that grammar is simply mental processes, which are universal; therefore grammar is universal. o The Port Royal Grammar had a pedagogical goal as its primary one. However, this goal was not learning a specific language, but rather learning any language. It aims to provide an overview of the grammatical features shared by all languages. o As such, it was part of Port Royal’s overall program of changing language teaching methodology 4 o A TYPICAL EXAMPLE OF THEIR ANALYSIS IS AS FOLLOWS: The invisible God created the visible world This sentence is analyzed as…
God, who is invisible, created the world, which is visible …. Which in turn is decomposed into the three propositions… God is invisible God created the world The world is visible • Historical Linguistics o Towards the end of the 18th century, European linguists began to realize that certain languages exhibited systematic resemblances. Linguists believed that these languages derive from one single ancestor. o For example, the English ‘f’ sound often corresponds to a ‘p’ sound in, among others, Latin and Sanskrit, an important ancient language of India. 5 Franz Bopp Jakob Grimm Rasmus Rask.
Were able to show that almost all of the languages of Europe and many languages of Asia were all related. As a result, the study of language change and of the prehistories of languages, called HISTORICAL LINGUISTICS, became the most important way of studying languages. • An example of the kind of systematic correspondence that attracted early attention is shown in the following table. English Latin Greek father Pater Pater Foot Ped- Pod- For Pro Para Six Sex Hexa Seven Septem Hepta Salt Sal Hal New Novus neos 6 THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT OF THE 19TH CENTURY LINGUISTIC SCHOLARSHIP WAS (1)
to establish the principles and methods used in setting up language families, and (2) to develop a general theory of language change and linguistic relationship. The 19th century is called the “golden age of philology”. This program of historical linguistics continues today. Linguists have succeeded in grouping the 5,000 or so languages of the world into a number of language families sharing a common ancestor. The Origins of General Linguistics The modern field of linguistics dates from the beginning of the 19th century. Towards the end of the 19th century, the non-historical study of language structure began to reassert itself.
Scholars published important observations about word structure and sound structure in languages. This kind of work we now call GENERAL LINGUISTICS: the study of how languages are put together and how they work. 7 Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1013) In the early years of the 20th century, Saussure began lecturing on general linguistics at the University of Geneva. He died without ever publishing his ideas. In 1916, his students collected and edited their lecture notes in a volume with Saussure’s name on it. Saussure defined Language as a ‘system of distinct signs corresponding to distinct ideas’.
He insisted that a language system can be separated from the complexities of speech and studied on its own. Before Saussure, most linguists perceived a language as primarily a collection of objects, such as speech sounds, words and grammatical endings. Saussure argued instead that a language is a structured system of elements, in which the place of each element is defined chiefly by how it relates to other elements. This approach is called STRUCTURALISM. • Words are signs, and in linguistics we are studying the science of signs: semiology. And signs took on a value depending on words adjacent in use or meaning.
English has sheep and mutton but French has only mouton for both uses. • Langue (French, meaning “language”) and parole (meaning “speech”) are linguistic terms distinguished by Saussure. Langue encompasses the abstract, systematic rules and conventions of a signifying system. 8 Langue involves the principles of language, without which no meaningful utterance, “parole”, would be possible. • Parole refers to the concrete instances of the use of langue. This is the individual, personal phenomenon of language as a series of speech acts made by a linguistic subject.
Saussure did not concern himself overly with parole; however, the structure of langue is revealed through the study of parole. • A further aspect of Saussure’s work is an emphasis upon two different approaches to the study of language: a synchronic approach, in which we focus on the structure of a language at a particular moment in time (not necessarily the present), and a diachronic approach, in which we look at the development of a language over time. The Prague Circle After the 1st World War (1926), a number of East European linguists congregated in the Czech city of Prague.
They developed structuralist ideas. Their primary interest was phonological theory. They also made contributions to syntax. • Trubetzkoy (1890-1938) introduced the notion of phoneme and opposition. An example of his analysis of phonology is the way the 9 word caught is pronounced. This word is pronounced the same in American and Canadian accents. However, in most American accents, caught is pronounced differently from cot, while in Canadian accents caught and cot are pronounced identically. • Jakobson (1896 – 1982) is a pioneer of the structural analysis of language.
He developed techniques for the analysis of sound systems in languages (phonology). He applied these techniques to syntax, morphology, and semantics. He distinguished between phonology and phonetics. Jakobson defined semiotics as ‘the general science of signs, which has as its basic discipline linguistics, the science of verbal signs’. Linguistics provides the model of analyzing language as a structured system that “ produces meanings”. Semiotics attempts to extend this approach to other non-linguistic systems, that is, to every aspect of social experience that can be analyzed as structured systems of signs (e.g. , traffic systems and architecture).
10 The Origins of American Linguistics Franz Boas (1858-1942) is an anthropologist and a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the “Father of American Anthropology”. Boas worked to demonstrate that differences in human behavior was primarily not determined by innate biological dispositions, but was largely the result of cultural differences acquired through social learning. In this way Boas introduced culture as the primary concept for describing behavioral differences in behavior between human groups, and as the central analytical concept of anthropology.
He studied the dying cultures of Native Americans and realized that good investigation of these cultures required knowledge of their languages. Edward Sapir (1884 -1939) is also an anthropologist. He was Boas’s most famous student. He studied the ways in which language and culture influence each other, and he was interested in the relation between linguistic differences, and differences in cultural world views (e. g. , whom and who). 11 The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897 – 1941) is Sapir’s best-known student. He pursued his teacher’s interests and produced a number of studies of native American and Canadian languages.
He argues that the structure of our language must, to some extent, determine the way we perceive the world. This idea is called “the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis” or “ The Linguistic Relativity”. • The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis states that there are certain thoughts of an individual in one language that cannot be understood by those who live in another language. • The hypothesis states that the way people think is strongly affected by their native languages. For example, (1) the number and type of the basic color words of a language determine how a subject sees the rainbow (how we see camels).
Example (2): the Navaho language of Arizona is rich in words for talking about lines of various shapes and colors. Among the hundred or so words available for this purpose are: Adziisgai ‘ a group of parallel white lines running off into the distance’. 12 (3). Navaho place names are geometrical in nature. For example, a certain striking rock formation in Arizona is called Navaho Tse Ahe ii aha Tse Ahe ii aha means “TWO ROCKS STANDING VERTICALLY PARALLEL IN A VERTICAL RELATIONSHIP TO EACH OTHER”. English speakers see objects resembling other objects..
They call these rocks “elephant’s feet”. A pioneer of American Structuralism Leonard Bloomfield (1887-1949) is another linguist who turned American linguistics somewhat away from its anthropological and cultural connections toward a more focused concentration on language structure in its own right. 13 He showed that the techniques of historical linguistics (already applied so successfully to European and Asian languages) could be applied with equal success to native (North) American languages. Bloomfield’s primary concern was to establish linguistics as a science.
But he became best known for his 1933 textbook in which he presented a carefully articulated approach to the structuralist analysis of languages, far more explicit and detailed that Saussure’s analysis had been ( e. g. , gender in an Algonquian language ‘raspberry and knee= animate, while strawberry and elbow=inanimate). Bloomfield was influenced by behaviorist psychology. He denied the relevance of “mind”; that is , he opposed the mentalism that had characterized the American linguistics of Boas, Sapir, and their students. Chomsky’s Generative Grammar Noam Chomsky is the world’s most influential linguist.
Chomsky introduced his generative ideas in a brief 1957 book, Syntactic Structures. 14 What is generative grammar? A generative grammar of a language attempts to give a set of rules that will correctly predict which combinations of words will form grammatical sentences. Generative grammar is a FORMAL grammar. It is explicit about what is compatible with it. Some rules of forming English sentences (phrase-structure rules): 1. S? NP VP 2. NP? Det N’ 3. N’? N 5. VP? V NP Possible noun phrases: the little girl my cat Possible verb phrases: hugged her dolly claws the sofa
These rules are designed to stipulate exactly what can and cannot be a sentence of English. For example, the allow things like The little girl hugged her dolly and my cat claws the sofa But they do not allow things like *Little the girl her dolly hugged. 15 1. Colorless green ideas sleep furiously 2. *Furiously sleep ideas green colorless. Sentence (1) is perfectly grammatical because we know which category to put each word in the sentence (noun, verb, adjective, adverb). adj adj N V adv Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. We understand how to group these into subject and predicate: adj adj N.
[Colorless green ideas ] subject V adv [ sleep furiously]. predicate And we know that “colorless green ideas” are directly related to “sleep”, connecting the subject and predicate. Because we know how to logically group parts of speech, we know that adv V N adj adj Furiously sleep ideas green colorless. is not a grammatical (ungrammatical/ ill-formed) sentence, simply because we cannot group these same words in a different order at all logically. Chomsky effectively proved that we have a built-in awareness of grammaticality, because we can explain why “colorless green ideas sleep furiously” is acceptable and “furiously sleep ideas green colorless” is unacceptable.
16 Many of the properties of a generative grammar arise from an “innate” universal grammar. Transformational Grammar (TG) TG is a much more powerful kind of Generative Grammar. Chomsky rejected phrase-structure grammar because it is too simple to capture important facts about language (context-free). For example, to convert The police arrested John into John was arrested by the police A single transformational rule does all of the following: Move the police to the end of the sentence. Insert by before the police.
Move John to the beginning of the sentence. Insert be before the verb arrested. Add tense-marking to convert be to was. Change the past tense arrested to the participle arrested. 17 Generative grammar shifted the focus of language study from behavior to state of the mind (behaviorism to cognition). The central concern becomes the knowledge of language: its nature, origins, and use. The three basic questions that arise, then are these: 1. What constitutes knowledge of language? 2. How is knowledge of language acquired? 3. How is knowledge of language put to use?